Tag Archives: Metal

Underground Sound: Slaegt – Domus Mysterium

Label: Ván Records
Band: Slaegt
Origin: Denmark

German elegance meets Northern Darkness

And with some great, folkish riffs you’re immediately captured by these Danes. Slaegt caught some mild controversy on social media with their peculiar cover design. Any PR is good PR, right? Funnily enough, the symbol is a combination of a 4 times the same symbol from Astrid Lindgren’s book ‘Brothers Lionheart’. It’s the symbol of the tyrant Tengil and the band has made it their own. The group feels a connection to the story, the opposing of said tyrant. Hence the symbol.

For the Danish group, this is their second full length after 2015’s ‘Ildsvanger’. The sound of the band has clearly shifted from the black metal sound to a blend with a heavy metal flavor. Unlike bands such as Rebel Wizard, the sound of Slaegt moves in a much more regal direction. It is as if their music connects the epic German sound with Northern black metal on this record.

The guitarwork is often very clean, so you can hear how the riffs weave the pattern of some kick ass songs. Slaegt sounds vital, urgent and surprisingly catchy at times. Sure, the vocals are of the barked, ferocious sort, but you get both worlds here. At times the band sounds pretty much like a black metal band, with the thick waves of atmospheric minor tones. Those lingering bits of darkness, tremolo guitar play and drum battery you hear for example on ‘Egovore’. Still the mix is slightly different, which leaves  a lot of space for some melodic passages.

I just have to highlight some songs for you, because those illuminate the splendid formula of these Danish musicians best. ‘The Tower’ is definitely one of their coolest songs; weeping guitars, a foreboding bit of play to rival Metallica and Opeth. There’s nothing showy about it though, no weird complexities. Just great metal music.

On ‘Burning Feathers’ we have an omnious piano intermezzo. It holds up the atmosphere, without trying too hard. Maybe my favorite track is the final one (the title track). The galloping rhythm, the fierce singing and the oh so catchy guitar lines. And it lasts almost 14 minutes. The speed dwindles a bit later in the song, for some of those screaming guitar parts, that remind you of classic heavy metal. This album is just a joy to listen to really.

Underground Sounds: Jute Gyte – The Sparrow

Label: Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records
Band: Jute Gyte
Origin: United States

I’ve written before about the music of Jute Gyte, which I wrongly wrote as Jute Gryte at the time. The fascinating thing about Jute Gyte is that the music made by Adam Kalbach, the sole member, is highly experimental. He makes listeners  aware of a whole distinct musical movement that apparently exists. A movement exploring music’s unknown.

The result of that is often that the music of Jute Gyte is very much an acquired taste. It listens as an oddity for the listener thanks to complexity, wealth of uncommon sounds and droning core. ‘The Sparrow’ is the latest release by the, dare I say, avant-garde musician with a knack for the extreme. With just two songs, this is one hell of a ride.

The start of ‘The Sparrow’ should have been called ‘The Bees’, since that is the feeling of the song. A buzzing, droning festival of intensity hits the listener. Dissonant and almost on a pitch that simply annoys the hell out of you, the track soon reaches the point where roaring vocals disturb the droning. After a few minutes we vind a break, where just eerie sounds fill the sonic void left behind. After minutes of slithering sounds, a more tumultuous, cascading sound develops. Just under twenty minutes, the track hardly gets dull or unsurprising in its intensity.

As soon as you start putting Jute Gyte in the noise category, you realise that there is always a structure. Structure that is hard to determine because it is so different to what you know. ‘Monadanom’ is the second track with an almost equal length. Lacking the ferocious passages of the former, this track is a continuing drone fest of atonal, disjunctured passages launched into the distance. At some parts it sounds soothing and melancholic, in others it’s simply uncomfortable. But that is what the music of Jute Gyte does, it will force its presence upon you as a listener. That is what makes it so brilliant.

Underground Sounds: Falls of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial

Label: Bindrune/Nordvis
Origin: United States
Band: Falls of Rauros

The band Falls of Rauros has a lot going for them. Firstly, their name is  a Tolkien reference, which always resonates with me. Secondly, their music rates as black/folk metal on various sites (though you can disagree on the terminology, I think it covers their sound well). Also they’re politically charged, citing anarchism as a theme.

This all would not even be necessary, for the Appalachian folk wink in their sound puts them on par with Panopticon and do I love that band. This is the fourth album by the group from Portland in the States, following ‘Believe In No Coming Shore’ from 2014. Artwise, the band takes a move away from their more nature depicting covers with something a bit more fantastic. Also good to have some new material, after all the re-releases ofcourse.

On opener ‘White Granite’,  you immediately hear the combination of beautiful melodies, maybe almost a bit of stadium rock, with scorching vocals. The constantly walk the thin line between beauty and grimness, somehow very akin to nature in that sense. This is not a bad thing though, because the band completely in a natural way finds their path through the different sounds and builds layers upon layers of riffs and expressions to create their specific brand of black metal. There’s  a densely emotional side to songs like ‘Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains’, something truly soothing.

Album highlight is, I think, the track ‘Arrow & Kiln’. It shows Falls on their more heavy end. More massive and cohesive than the rest of the album and therefor in 12 minutes being the song that exemplifies the album. It contains all the strong sides of the band in one go. Great stuff!

On final track ‘Impermanence Streakt Through Marble’ the band completely lets go of the black metal and trickling folky tunes, acoustic play and shoegazy meanderings lead the song forward. When the music gets some more weight after two minutes, this still feels like a beautiful postrock tune, evoking a certain sadness. Vocals come on a bit later, but for me those were not even needed (though they do give the song some body).

Bucovania: Romania remembers the past

Romania often gets less credit than it deserves, but the country has a wealth of history and a pretty intense and intriguing metal scene. Many interesting sounds come from that neck of the woods, and one of them is the band named Bucovina. A thriving folk metal project with a distinct flavor to it.

Bucovina is also a region of the country, which the band is named after.In the east of Europe, Romania often gets lumped in with other countries as part of the Eastern block. That’s a shame, since the country definitely has a history of its own. The region called Bucovina is part of that but due to history’s unfolding events, it is now part of Ukraine.

Florin “Crivăţ” Ţibu is the man behind the group. Crivat was willing to answer some questions over email, which took quite some time due to various reasons. I’m glad to say that he really gives a lot of information.

Originally published on Echoes & Dust

Bucovina

Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell what your role is in the band?

Hi there, I am Crivat, I play guitar and vocals in Bucovina and I am the mastermind that put everything together.

How did you guys get into metal?

They say that it’s metal that finds you, not the other way around, haha. Each of us, back in the day, happened to listen to the right song and meet the right people. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to describe what exactly got us into metal, but we’re ever so glad it happened. On the other hand, what KEEPS us into metal is the fact that we really enjoy what we do.

How did Bucovina get started? What were your inspirations, both musical as well as thematic?

I started the band after I went to college, with the bass player from the bands I had back in highschool. I’d say that the biggest thing that made me want to have a band and write music was Vintersorg’s first CD, the Hedniskhjartad EP. I was struck when I had listened to it for the first time and felt like there are things that needed to be said through music I could write.

The first Bucovina tracks were mixture of viking/norse/pagan/call-it-what-you-like and black metal, even though it was obvious since that early stage that we might not fall that easily into just one category. Then things evolved, yet we’re still dealing with a lot of influences, most likely because we have different backgrounds.

As for the lyrics, they go from nature, philosophy, old lore and magic, to more mundane themes, but they all relate in one way or another to whatever purpose human existence has in the universe, and how the noblest goal is to be able to understand at least minute fractions of all that existed, exists or will exist.

You combine a folkish sound with metal. What is the reason or motivation you chose to go this way with your music?

Again, it was music choosing us; and we’re lucky for this, because we don’t feel like „hey, let’s write a song like X, or Y, or Z.” In my book, what we are doing is proper neofolklore because we just don’t pick up traditional songs and add distorted guitars and heavy/black metal sounds. Most of the songs start as mere tunes I hum and record using whatever tool I happen to have at hand, and it’s the smartphone almost all the time.

Then, as I get home or to the studio, I grab a guitar and replicate the tune. Most of the time it turns out into a part that is useable or even an entire song theme. Sometimes it’s just useless crap 🙂 In a way, it’s like the peasants of old, who went out into the fields to work the land or to hunt, and they would sing. That’s why I say that we’re doing is actual modern folklore.

In the past bands that work with national/historical themes have often been criticized for or linked to the far right. How do you feel about this and has Bucovina had to face such issues?

Well, I guess there will always be people who feel like they MUST add some of their improperly-founded opinion to the game. Likewise, there will always be people who feel that the NEED to feel offended by one thing or another. Our paths crossed several times and, what can I say, I pity these folks. Instead of trying to see what lays beyond what they BELIEVE things are, they prefer to stir up shit and call bands names, put words in their mouths and so on. Thankfully, we know better and make do and mend.

We simply like Romania and would love to see it fare better these days, and leave a nicer place to live for our kids. We never agreed with the political views of the guy who owned the label that released our first album, and that’s why we put an end to the collaboration. The fact that we dealt with a label that was perceived as being a spearhead in the NS direction affected us in the early years, but through hard work we managed to shake off that burden.

Bucovina is named after a region. Can you explain the choice of name and the significance of the region? I understand that half of Bucovina is part of Ukraine, is that a cause for tension?

Indeed, Bucovina is a region in the north of the country, with its northern half beyond the Ukrainian border. We went for this name because I and Luparul, the other guy playing guitars and vocals, are from Bucovina and wanted to do something for that amazing part of the world.

Well, tension I wouldn’t call it. It’s more like regret, regret for a past where the Soviet Union used to rule that part of Europe and when the western countries left the entire East Block go fuck itself under Soviet dominion.

Honestly, I believe that the wounds of the aggressive Soviet regime will never heal, and this is so fucking disheartening. Nevertheless, I do believe that it’s worth not forgetting the errors of the past and passing a rich heritage to our offspring.

What are the themes and subjects in your music? Can you tell us more about them, since little is known about Romanion paganism, history and so on in this part of the world (and I’m most interested in these).

Well, it would take years to tell you about Romanian lore. We have stories and legends that seem like they could go hand in hand with whatever fiction masterpiece modern history produced, and we are slowly showcasing them in our songs, albeit in a rather laconic way.

Mostly it’s about the relationship between man and nature, and how certain gifted individuals rise above the human condition to become better integrated with the forces that govern the universe. From merely abandoning yourself in contemplation of a sunset in Bucovina’s mountains, to traveling through vales and woods, to the high plains where horses roam by the hundreds, from the secluded small villages where magic is still a part of everyday life, to the everyday thoughts, aspirations and fears, we’re one with them.

Is there in any way a mission or message that you try to convey with Bucovina?

Of course there is, and maybe this is why our albums are rather short. They simply seem to end when we feel like we said what needed to be said in a certain moment. There is no bullshit on any of our albums, and I do hope we keep it that way despite people way they’d enjoy longer albums. If we will have a lengthier message to pass on, you bet your asses that the album carrying it will be longer.

The main message, although it’s not that easy to understand by everyone from the first spin, is that people would do better to try and be who they really are deep inside, while also trying to make the world a better place. Life is too short for crap, and it can end quite abruptly in a thousand ways, so trying to understand as much as possible from the universe almost sounds like a must.

We are a part of nature, whether we like it or not, and despite the fact that some religions are trying to hijack and downplay the message. We often describe our music as being “Of mountains and magic,” and at times, it just couldn’t be any closer to the truth. We like the nature and the magic way it can still oppose the dumbness of the people who think they are the supreme being. We, as a species, may be cool, indeed, but we’re definitely not the icing on the cake 😉

 What can you tell about your last album ‘Nestramutat’, which came out in 2015? What is the story you are telling on this record?

The name of the album could be translated to “Unswerving,” and it speaks about how certain individuals with a strong spirit cannot be broken or changed. In a way, it’s like nature/the planet itself: you fuck with it, it will fuck you up in ways that are far worse, and then there is nothing you can do about that. It’s just the fact that you can’t mess with the planet/universe and get away with it.

Or, speaking about people who are so dear to someone that their memory lives on and on even though they have been dead for a long time. A lot of things change, but some don’t. The latest album is about the latter.

What was the recording and writing process like? Does every band member have a specific role in it?

It’s so fucked up that it almost pains me to remember doing the last two albums. We are so chaotic and so reckless that I keep wondering how do we make it. The truth is that we are incredibly lucky to work with Dan Swano for mixing and mastering.

The guy is a genius and a gigantic name in metal and prog, and even though we’re not even able yet to tap into a tenth of his true potential, he gets the job done where other would simply fail or deliver mediocre results.

I’ve learned a ton from him and keep doing so each time I get to talk to him. Also, Dan is an amazing person and we get along very well; and I have to thank him for his patience, too. We are independent so we don’t have a production crew, so sometimes, things are friggin’ difficult and downright nasty, but we always manage to pull through.

As for the studio work, another round of thanks go to Maanu, our former keyboard player. He’s the conductor of the National Opera choir and his duties and schedule prevent him from touring with us, so we had to part ways. Even so, we’re still in excellent terms, he even has a set of keys to our studio. He helps us with tracking when I am not able to, and we’re also writing some choir parts together. As for roles, everybody is taking care of their own stuff.

Lately, Dan Swano became quite busy and with us not having a very clear schedule of how a new album should progress, things are becoming a bit harder. Nevertheless, we worked with Martin Buchwalter, the drummer of Perzonal War, who is also a studio producer, and the first results – the Asteapta-ma Dincolo (de Moarte) single turned out great. We’ll see  what the future brings…

Currently you’re self-releasing your music. What prompted that choice? What is the story with the label Lupii Daciei?

It was a lousy choice we made without fully understanding that the fellow with whom we were dealing (a chap from an obscure label that had signed us) was more interested in pursuing his dumb neo-nazi racist shit than he was in metal. We are a bit nationalist, but not in a way that relates to such political crap.

We disliked (and still do) the direction things were heading for, because we’re not fighting a fucking racial war here. We don’t hate Jews, black people, the Slavs, we don’t believe in Aryan ideology, race purity, untermensch and all the crap. We don’t need any Heil Hitler and swastikas in our music to find a purpose for what we are doing.

We realized that the label’s purpose was in no way close to our expectations so we called it a day. If anything, I could be mad at ourselves for making the deal in the first place, but young people DO make mistakes, ain’t that true?

As for releases, yes, we are a completely independent band and we plan to stay that way. We’re doing just fine, as it looks like being true to yourself and not write music just to have another track on the upcoming CD pays off. We have the money we need to produce top-notch digipacks, we have our own studio and bus, we can afford mixtering by Dan Swano, also do our own booking and merch.

We can deal for small endorsement deals ourselves, but we’re in no hunger for gear, because we are able to buy what we need and plan to not sell out for the sake of some guitars or other stuff. We CAN manage our own shit. Why would we change that?

Hire some fuck who only thinks about money? Why, it doesn’t make any sense. We are also making our own deals for shows abroad and we enjoy touring on our own efforts. We already toured in Brazil in 2016 and booked nice festivals in Germany this year, with more gigs coming up in Poland, UK, the Czech Republic and more. We are extending our operations, for lack of a better word.

What is the Romanian metal scene like currently? What bands do you think are worth checking out?

Still, the Romanian metal scene is a fairly young one. Before 1989, the Communist regime did not take good of rock and whatever metal people made then, so we can say that we’re a bit behind schedule. Nevertheless, I do perceive some sort of crystallization, with some bands understanding the need of good production, good and – if possible – original sound (even though being completely original is rather impossible).

Without being too stiff, I’d say that we are far too busy trying to make things right here (in the band) to have the time to analyze what exactly is going on around. People have better gear, have learned more about music and some of them are really putting up serious efforts to make it as big as possible.

The Romanian metal scene may be a rather small one but certain things are not different from any other part of the world. We do need people with money to put up records companies and distribution networks, we do need support from the public, and no –  nobody becomes a star overnight. We’ve spent like 15 years of sacrifice and hard work until results started to show up the way we wanted. Making good metal is hard. As it ever was.

We do have certain interesting bands, such as Dor de Duh, Hteththemeth, Adamo Caduco (though it’s not metal). Also you could check out Ashaena’s new release, Implant pentru Refuz, Asemic, Bucium or Dara.

Can you tell a bit about the history of metal in Romania? Which bands got it started and when?

There were some feeble metal acts before 1989, but it all started in a rather primitive way after the Revolution, with a mixture of punk, thrash and hardcore-ish bands which are no longer active. We were so hungry for rock back in the day that we enjoyed everything and everything seemed like a godsend for the masses.

Unfortunately I haven’t dedicated time to becoming a metal historian for the scene, therefore it’s impossible for me to speak about this subject. I’d rather say we’re still in the “history in the making” stage.

In 2015 there was the fire in a nightclub in Bucharest that has not only shaken the metal scene, but Romania as a whole. In what way did it affect Bucovina?

The blaze at Club Colectiv put an untimely end to the life of one of our best friends, Adrian Rugina. He was not only a great guy, but also one of the best show producers in the country, having worked with the likes of Metallica and Madonna and everything in between. He played drums in Bucium, a folk-rock band we toured with, with whom we released albums together and was a true friend.

He died after returning to the burning club several times and saving other guys, and he became a national hero. Sad to see that people forget way too easily about guys like Rugina. We don’t; both me and Mishu, the drummer, have his name tattooed on our bodies and we wrote a song to his memory. Eventually, the song became the Asteapta-ma dincolo (de moarte) single and we even shot a video for that particular song. Adi goes with us wherever we may roam, he’s not alone and neither are we. He just lives on inside our hearts.

Other thing that changed in Romania after the blaze was that the number of people who can attend a show is now much smaller. Safety, laws, shit like this. In a way it’s better and safer, that’s true, but when you can no longer host 400 people in a place that can handle these guys, things are nasty; and this is because of some small inconvenient stipulated by the law. I do hope things will be better in the future as far as this goes. We have even done two shows back to back in the same place to have all the guys who wanted to see us play well and happy.

What future plans do you guys have as a band?

We are working on a new album for 2018, a special show for the end of 2017, but I can’t tell you more details about this one, at least not now 😉 We intend to dedicate more time to playing shows in Europe and become more professional. Also, new videos are being worked on, albeit in the planning phase, so far. Expect to see us more in Europe in 217 and 2018, with a big South American tour in 2019.

Please use the space here to add anything you feel should be mentioned.

We do feel that we are part of a new wave of bands that managed to raise their heads independently and without having someone pumping money to make us grow. The fact that we are an independent act has its pros and cons, of course, and maybe, when the time is right and the deal is fair, we’ll even take that step to sign a deal with a big production company. Until then, we’re working our asses out to deserve that fair deal. Otherwise, we’re doing fine, and that’s why we’ll keep on delivering fine metal to our fans.

 

Interview with Harmasar, Moldavian warriors

This interview with Harmasar was originally published on Echoes and Dust.

In the furthest, forgotten corner of Europe, in between Romania and Ukraine, you can find the country Moldavia. You might know the country, because in some strange twist of faith, your local football team ended playing a team from there or even your national football team. It’s there where most people’s knowledge of Moldavia ends.

Moldavia became a country on its own in 1991, but historically it’s been a turbulent region. Inhabited by the Dacians in the ancient past, it is said the region gets its name from a combination of the words ‘many’ and ‘fortress’, which would be along the river. Part of the historical, often overrun Moldavia is now part of Romania, the other part being the independent Republic of Moldova.

Moldavia is historically intertwined with Wallachia, Transylvania and Bucovina, all parts of Romania. The historical connection runs deep, even to this very day. The flags are not very different even and there’s talk of unity. On the other hand there’s a pull of Russia on certain autonomous regions. In between, Moldavians find out that they also have their own identity. Harmasar is a band that expresses that nationality and identity through their music and art.

I got to have a chat about this with the band.

Hey, could you kindly introduce yourselves to the readers?

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, greetings! We are HARMASAR and we’re a Folk/Pagan Metal band from the Republic of Moldova.

How did you get together as a band and started out making music? Have you guys played in any metal bands before Harmasar?

The legend says that as a band HARMASAR was born in September 2013 (the day of our first concert), the founding member being Mircea (the drummer). Most of us had some experience of playing in a band before Harmasar, but the majority of these bands were popular and known only among its members.

Tell me about Harmasar? What does the name mean and what is the concept or story you are telling with this band?

Harmasar in Romanian stands for stallion (you know, the one with balls, with testicular integrity). The main message we are trying to present is the one of ‘knowing your roots’, remembering the great and heroic deeds of your ancestors, as well as the idea of conservation of the traditional values.

Our inspiration comes from ancient Moldovan/Romanian folk tunes and music, like doina’s and hora’s. As for bands, we find inspiration in the like of Eluveitie, Arkona, Korpiklaani, Bucovina.

You’ve recently released your debut album ‘Din pământ’. A thunderous folk metal album, that seems to lean close to the more folkish expressions with peculiar traditional instruments and elements. What is the story you are telling on this album?

The closest translation of the title ‘Din pământ’, we guess will be ‘From dirt’ or ‘From dust’, with the meaning of roots, origins. This is also what the album is about.

For people, like me, who know little about the past history of Moldova, can you introduce us into the material. What are the elements you are singing about?

Well, in this album we mostly sing about great battles, fought by our ancestors, so the songs ‘Daoi’ , ‘Tapae’ and ‘Moesia’ are about the war between Dacians and The Roman Empire. ‘Vaslui 1475’ tells us the story of the war between The State of Moldova ( Tara Moldovei ) and the Ottoman Empire and particularly The battle of Vaslui. On the other hand there are also songs that criticize human vices and corruption such as ‘Națiunea’ and ‘Porcu’.

Well, the main messages in ‘Natiunea’ is to stand for the ideas you believe in. People should always remember who they are and where they are from: standing for the ideas that you believe in and always remembering who you are and where you do come from. In ‘Porcu’ the idea is to not let yourself be manipulated by anyone, especially by political forces and other empowered entities. Literally, it tells about not becoming a pig, a creature that is raised without values to be killed and eaten at a whim.

Harmasar, source Facebook band

Can you tell us more about the writing and recording process of your album? Is everyone equally involved or is there a clear division of tasks?

Yes, we find it more productive to have a good division of labour and tasks in the band. So the song writing process is performed by Max (the vocalist) mostly, band promotion and graphic design by Ștefan (the bass player) and the events, concerts organisation by Mircea (the drummer).

What sort of traditional elements do you put in your music and which instruments do you use for this?

Well for the rhythmic part we used such elements as Sârba and Hostropăț wich was also used as a traditional tune for panflute as well as ”Ciuleandra”. In addition to the panflute (Nai) we recorded also some flutes (fluier, caval), violins and an accordion.

Let’s discuss the art work, can you say a bit about the artwork you use and the visual aspects of the band? I understand you guys perform also in a traditional outfit?

The artwork was made by our friend Octavian Curoșu with our suggestions, it’s our vision on the album name “Din Pământ”. As our songs are about our ancestors we have decided to wear similar outfit inspired from them with some elements created by us.
The artwork of the album is open for interpretation, we like to see that people find different things in it. In our vision it is a conglomerate, a synthesis of ideas. In Moldova we have a natural reservation called ‘One hundred Hills’ or ‘Suta de Movile’, which consists of a large group of hills of different sizes. According to the legends these are considered to be ancient warrior’s tombs. So basically the hill on the picture has the signification of an ancestral grave, a tomb representing at the same time: the end, the past, our history and roots. On the other hand this hill is also a mother’s womb, with a child to be born, the foetus representing the future, the birth of a new generation. So essentially it is like a synergy between these two ideas, past and future, like the Phoenix rises from its ashes, the child is waiting to be born from the grave of his ancestors.

Can you tell me a bit about metal in Moldova? How did it get started in your country and which bands pioneered the genre?

As we know, till this time there were and are a lot of metal bands here in Moldova, but the most remarkable one was Accident (Death/Thrash Metal) that was formed in 1988.

 What is the scene like now? Where is it centred and do you guys have relations with bands from neighbouring countries?

​The scene is centred mostly in Chisinau, the capital of RM, where you can find several places for bands to play live, and also some open air festivals during the summer. We have some good friends in Romania and Bulgaria playing in a well-known bands there with witch is always a pleasure to hang out and play some shows together.

Which bands from Moldova do you think people should check out and why these ones?

You can check out ABNORMYNDEFFECT – this is a Polyrhythmic Grindcore/ Death Metal band that is one of the most appreciated of its style in Europe. Their songs are about our social and political problems.

What future plans does Harmasar have?

The most primary for us now is to have a tour for supporting our debut album in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and other countries. To meet with our great fans from there and to reach a new audience.

About other plans we cannot tell, yet…

If you had to compare your music to a dish (food), what would it be and why?

I don’t know any dish that I can compare to our music, but probably it would be a Grilled Ottoman with some bloody sauce, but we haven’t tasted it yet. (joking, referring to the bloody history in wars with the Ottoman empire)

The first dish that came up in my mind is Ciorbă de Văcuță (beef broth), it helped us a lot to survive tough mornings during the past tours.

Underground Sounds: Ūkanose – Ūkanose

Label:Soundage Productions
Band: Ūkanose
Origin: Lithuania

Folk metal ain’t dead, y’all! Sure, Finntroll has become a joke, Alestorm has descended into madness and I don’t even know what happened to Turisas, but there’s still hope. From countries you might not even know about great tunes are coming forth. Ūkanose is one of those bands from Lithuania who create some waves with the self-titled debut.

Lithuanian folk music is heavily characterised by ritualistic chanting and war songs, they have a special quality to them. They feel outlandish, magical and somewhat overwhelming at times. Ūkanose manages to incorporate that into their metal music. So we don’t have a band playing metal with some fiddles, but a genuine blend and that for me is the magic of folk metal.

The songs of Ūkanose offer a specific sadness, a weariness of live and look to the past you also find in Slavic bands like Drudkh. An accordeon gives a bit of a jolly feel to some of the songs, but what really it does is create that continuous flow that is so important in the Baltic music. It makes it also very easy for a listener to jump into their music and feel the passage of time in a more calm and natural way. There’s a closeness to nature in the sound, to tradition and folklore. You don’t even need to understand the lyrics for that.

Ūkanose translates as fog, which is a good metaphor for the sound of the band. The pace is slow, but constantly progressing. The vocals are easy, chanted and often in multiple voices. All in all it’s an album that is much closer to the volky sound of Ugniavijas. A favorite track for me is ‘Skrenc bitela’. The calm repetition of the vocals on such a flat tone is hypnotizing but catching. The guitars merely serve as a heavy fundament to build up the song upon.

This record is one that takes you to a different time and age. It takes you to dancing around the fire in praise of forgotten gods. Noteworthy is the song ‘Gerkime’, a Corvax Corax cover. This music comes from a genuine place, not just one where you raise drinking horns wearing a kilt. Well worth a listen.

Shamanic hunters: Hounds of Bayanay from Russia

Metal music has found its way to remote parts of the world, but rarely to ones so isolated as Yakutsk. Yakutsk is the capital of the Sakha Republic, an autonomous region of Russia that covers about as much ground as India, but has only one million inhabitants. This article was originally published on Echoes & Dust.

A thinly populated region, covered in ice and snow, and inhabited by the Sakha people gave birth to the band Hounds of Bayanay. Modern technology allows the band to create music an unleash it onto the world, but it’s really a complete DIY mentality that the group has. But what a place to make metal music. A land so heavily under the elements, with a people that live far away from any real bustling region.

In a way that is something you can find in the sound of Hounds of Bayanay. They’re eclectic and unique, finding their own sound in the city of Yakutsk, which has virtually no music industry present to speak of. Listening to bands they love, they created a sound so distinct that it truly represents their place in the world. I was fortunate to get in touch with the group and have a chat about that.

Can you kindly introduce yourselves and your band? Where does the name Hounds of Bayanay come from?

The band has been in existence since 2014, when Alex Yakovlev ‘Red Hat’ (rhythm guitar), Gregory Grigoriev ‘Klath’ (drums) and Slava Sivcev ‘Sleeva’ (bass/vocals) decided to start a ‘Sakha’ ethno-metal band. The previous band, Fahrenheit, had collapsed. Vocalist Aina Egorova ‘Keres’ and solo guitarist Michil Mekumyanov ‘Chillet’ joined the band as well and so Hounds of Bayanay was formed.

About the name, it may sound a bit silly but it started as a joke. Imagine how the media would call a Sakha terrorist group? But the name sounded hilarious and bad-ass at the same time. Bayanay – in sakha mythology –  is a spirit and master of nature. He is considered the patron of hunters. The Cult of Bayanay still exists today and hunters in Sakha still pray to Bayanay to ask for favor before the hunt. Though our songs and music are not about Bayanay and the hunt themselves, it connects us to the themes of mythology and folklore of Sakha. Legends and forgotten tales of our people and the greatness of the northern nature.

How did you guys get into making metal music? What bands originally inspired you to make this sort of music?

Each of us have been listening to metal since we were young, but our inspiration is very different. Bands like Metallica, Nightwish, Behemoth, System of a Down and even The Red Hot Chili Peppers are part of that inspiration.

Yakutia already had many folk bands since the eighties. An example is Cholbon, who are considered the Siberian Pink Floyd and had success in Russia. The band has even been on a world tour. In 2003 a band named 103 emerged as the first folk metal band. They are huge in Yakutia now.

What are your inspirations for starting Hounds of Bayanay and choosing the lyrical themes you have picked? I find when listening to the music, that there’s a unique, ethnic element to your sound. How did you shape that?

What we wanted to create is something heavy, dark and wild, but at the same time it must contain chanting and feel festive like old Sakha folk songs and shaman ritual chanting. The band 103 was a huge inspiration, but we wanted something with more aggression, more blood and gore. The lyrics needed more pathos and mysticism. I suppose that through this our band was born.

In 2016 we started to find out that our music was not only beloved in our native Yakutia. It was then we started to connect and communicate with people from abroad, who loved folk metal music. They told us to spread our music even further. We had been playing live shows in our home town mostly. We were playing new songs at gigs and recording was put second. In 2016 we had also changed some band members. Before we didn’t have big plans, but that changed everything. We had a goal to record our first album, so that’s where we started on our EP ‘MYYC’.

You’ve released your EP Myyc. Can you tell us how the writing and recording process looked like? What sort of facilities did you use and what sort of process do you take in making your music?

We actually wrote and recorded the music in our garage during very dark and freezing evenings. All we had really was a few laptops to work on and USB-audio interfaces. After recording the vocals and the guitars, Alex and Gregory made the other music stuff.

I find, when I listen to your music, that in there you have something rather unique, it feels very ethnic and different. Are there specific bands that you feel inspire your folk metal sound?

The band 103 might be the closest inspiration we have.

In 2016 you’ve not just released your EP, but also dropped 2 demo’s. What was the motivation behind unleashing so much material in such a short time?

Well, one EP and two demo’s… We’d do more if we had the time for it.

On metal archives your lyrical theme is listed as ‘Yakut folklore’. I find that this otherness, this different cultural background is very tangible and strongly expressed in the music youe been making. Can you tell us a bit about that Yakut folklore, what is it about, what sort of elements return in it?

Yakut folklore is based on the pagan beliefs and ther epos “Olonkho”. Briefly described, there are three worlds: Upper, Middle and Lower. All of them is connected by giant tree “Aal Luk”. The upper world is world of Gods “Ayii”(Айыы), the ,middle world is settled by humans and the Lower world is full of demons “Ajaray”. In the epos, often, demons capture woman and the humans then will have to send one of hteir legendary heroes to rescue her. The hero will ask for the help of the Gods and must succeed to protect his people.

There also some more realistic folklore of yakutian people. Folklore of forgotten times when vast clans and tribes waged endless wars, powerfull shamans who gathered armies to destroy other nations and heroes who fought and sacrificedthemselves for justice. All of this is inspiring to many poets, writers and ourselves

Do you also put something Yakut, something typical, in your music?

Sometimes we put throat singing and we sometimes use the Khomus (something like jew’s-harp).

You’re making music very far from Moscow, far from any place commonly known as a centre for metal music. What is it like to make this sort of music in Yakutsk? Are there venues, record shops, studio’s and rehearsal spaces there? Do you lack any means to make music?

Yakutsk is a relatively small city and if you take a look at the map you’ll find that it is positioned in the middle of non-settled lands. Most of these lands are covered with snow and ice. This means we lack the professionalism in metal, we have no specialised sound people, there are no huge stadiums or arenas filled with metalheads…

What we do have are talented musicians. People with a will to create something original. We have willpower and it seems like we’re slowly getting something done. The population is not huge here, so there’s also no big amount of metal heads. There are no venues, no record shopws, no studio’s and no rehearsal spaces. All we have is unbreakable enthousiasm and metal unity.

There are atleast two or three annual music festivals for bands to perform at. Gigs are organised in local bars by enthousiasts and musicians themselves.

What sort of scene exists where you are from, are there other bands you think people should check out? That you’d recommend (and why?)?

People should check band “103” they sound very hard and very folklorish. Just check it out!

What future plans do you guys have at this point?

For now we are fully concentrated on recording our first album this year, it already took long enough now.

If you had to describe Hounds of Bayanay as a dish (food) what dish would it be and why this particular one?

If Hounds of Bayanay was a dish it would be elk cooked in a cauldron on a campfire. It would be a sign of Bayanay’s blessings after a hunt, when the hunter can reward himself with this delicious meat and drink some kymys. It is the real happiness for a sakha hunter: campfire, smell of cooking meat, taiga which surrounds you and not single soul for hundreds of kilometers.

Underground Sounds: Mord’A’Stigmata – Hope

Label: Pagan Records
Band: Mord’A’Stigmata
Origin: Poland

Mord’A’Stigmata is one of the interesting bands emerging from Poland, with a tendency to explore the boundaries of what black metal is, seeking to expand, grow and energize the genre in their own way. The band has been around for a good 13 years and has now released album number four ‘Hope’.

For a band that deals with the depressive reality of our lives, its a far flung term, but where darkness is hope lives, does it not? That seems to be the theme for this album. The artwork doesn’t spell that much good for the future though. Gnarled branches reaching upwards in the dark and smoke rising from it. Well, time to give this a spin. Out on Pagan Records, this is an album by a band within the Polish tradition, where conviction and a feeling of glow are part of the sound.

The titletrack that kicks of seems to rely on a sort of post-metal trance-state that the listeners get swallowed up in. Repetitive riffing for about 12 minutes is indeed a heavy experience. But thanks to the catchy sound, the emotional clarity and a certain less-is-more approach to the sound, this is something special to experience. The production is well tight on this first song, allowing you to sink into it almost instantly in the first minutes. The vocals slither in, offering words in a similar tone as Nergal/Johan Edlund (Behemoth/Tiamat). It gives more depth to the music, which seems to combine that hypnotic side with a gothic/doom aspect.

The commanding vocals work well with the constant build up an tension in the music. The track ‘The Tomb from Fear and Doubt’, we hear the vocalist Ion deliver with conviction. The lyrics are a bit peculiar though and seem to be more those of a love song. I’m not sure if that is what they are, but this sometimes is really the language barrier. The track maybe dwindles on some aspects too long, but following tune ‘To Keep The Blood’ gets us back to strength. Though you can feel the black metal aspect in all music by Mord’A’Stigmata, this record is much more a rock album. The way the songs balance out the slow, atmospheric guitar and drum passages and clearly articulated words.

Like the final track ‘In Less Than No Time’, this is a song to just sink into.  That I find the biggest strength of hope, the way they put those endless passages in there that completely suck you in. I really enjoy listening to this album. The music is not overly complex, but catchy. The eclectic nature of the band puts them in a much broader stream of music. This I think will be very good for their popularity. The Polish metal scene is definitely developing a more and more distinct sound.

Underground: Armor Force – Exile

Label: Infected Blood / Kill The Light Productions
Band: Armor Force
Origin: China

Bands froms certain parts of the world just do things differently. That definitely goes for Armour Force, who combine folk with death metal vocals in a rather direct way. And by direct I mean that there’s really no blended terrain or common ground being trodden, it is at times literally death metal grunts over sea shanty passages.

This is the first EP by the Beijing band, which was originally released in 2015. Since then they only did a single, on another label from Inner Mongolia. The music the band makes seems to be an odd mix of various styles, but definitely finds some inspiration in the sword and sorcery movements, I gather from the logo.

So trust me, you won’t know what hits you when the first notes arrive. It opens like a melancholic folk song, maybe even some dungeon synth. meandering, notes that suddenly launch into a blast of bagpipes with a ripping guitar behind them. A flute takes over while the sound lowers and a deep grunt emerges. It’s as if you hear the pining Chinese traditionals with a full on metal riffs. It’s a bit much all in all, but sort of cool if you drop the genre definitions.

The following track is titled ‘Jade Horn’ and features the same flute and a more sea shanty like melody, remniscent of Alestorm. It’s sort of along those lines that the song swings onwards. Cheery folk tunes with peculiarly tight and condensed riffing, but always that almost surreal party sound. It makes for a strange album altogether, of which I can’t really detect much of the real idea and concept behind it. The recorded quality of the riffs and vocals is significantly poorer, almost sounding like midi files, particularly on ‘The Day Of Downthrow’. The band drops the synth for a moment to just get the gritty guitars to the front.

I wonder how this band is sounding on  a proper produced record, because when you really listen closely this has a promise to it. Right now, it feels like a strange gaming soundtrack, but still sort of cool.

Molodost: poetry, youth and life in Lebanon

This interview with Molodost was originally published by Echoes & Dust. Enjoy reading it and check out the music.

When you listen to metal from far of places, you find that views can be very different to what you’re familiar with. To me this is always the challenge and beauty of exploring metal’s unexplored fringes.

But if you are from Tyre in Lebanon and you make black metal, your concept of anti-Zionism isn’t some strange theory from a far right movement. It’s the very real expression of fear of war, which for Tyre was never far from its door and a bit too often in the recent history actually in their country. This runs through the music of Molodost, the otherness, the oppositions and a typical melancholy.

The theme of Molodost’s music is youth. Youth is a broad concept and matches with an open, inquisitive mindset towards the world. Towards wrong and right, towards the self and the other. Youth means being open to others, open to change and learning. Read my interview with the man behind Molodost and make sure to check out the EP.

Molodost

Hi, could you kindly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Molodost?

Molodost: Hello and thanks for such an opportunity. I hail from Lebanon; a small country in the heart of the Middle-East. Molodost was founded in 2012 as a medium to primarily express some English and Arabic poetry of mine, rather than write and record music as an end-result by itself. The project mainly lasted some months with the release of 2 demos. I have, however, continued writing and recording more mature materials from 2013 all the way to 2015 and eventually released them in the recent release entitled نسيم جبل صنين (The Breeze of the Mountain of Sanine).

(((o))): How did you get into metal music? What bands inspired you to make your music?

Molodost: I have been listening to heavy metal music since 2003 and it was a natural development of an interest when I was exposed to ‘Moonlight’, a song by the German death/gothic band Crematory and carried over since then. However, it wasn’t until 2009 when I have discovered my niche of metal music which have ever since influenced my entire listening experience and my own music; such niche is mainly Slavic folk metal and (atmospheric) black metal with all the variants of being ‘traditional/epic/blackgaze/ambient/neoclassical/etc…’. Folk music in general, neofolk, darkwave and dark ambient, in addition to some Arabic music also had some influences on my work. To cite some influential bands, they were and still are Burzum, Alkonost, Summoning, Agalloch and Fairouz (yes, Google her! The very famous Lebanese lady).

I understand that there’s a Russian connection to Molodost, how did that start out? Can you elaborate on that?

Molodost: Yes, definitely. Molodost (Молодость) is Russian for ‘youth’. This is the title of a song by Ivan Kupala (a Russian ethnotronica band) and was later covered by my ultimate favorite band of all time, Alkonost (a Russian folk metal band). Youth is also a major theme in my poetry and so, since I have a deep appreciation for the Russian culture, geography, language and music, the connection between the name, the music and the themes was natural.

You’ve just released your new EP. Can you tell us a bit about it and its themes?

Molodost: This is actually a compilation more than an EP of the best materials I’ve written over the years (some stuff didn’t make it to the final compilation). Some songs were also omitted out of respect for copyright (since the ‘EP’ is available for purchasing on Bandcamp) since they were cover songs (for the record, I have two covers: Burzum’s ‘Móti Ragnarokum’ and Mortifera’s ‘Epilogue D’une Existence De Cryssthal’). Lyrical themes of this record revolve around existence, anti-Zionism and the support of the Palestinian case, mountains and deserts (landscapes of Lebanon and the UAE, respectively), and poverty.

One of the criticism that I read a few times involves the quality of the recordings. I felt that the synth parts had a fitting dungeon synth-esque vibe and the quality matched the expression, but I was wondering if it was a lack of means or a conscious style choice to make your music this way. Are you satisfied with the result.

Molodost: At the beginning, yes! I was and still fascinated by lo-fi productions as sometimes they can be truly atmospheric! Yet, with the emergence of more high-quality and more accessible stuff in the recent years, I actually wanted to improve my sound, especially the synth (to reflect more natural folk instrumentations) and the drum machine involved. Guitars-wise (since this is the only real instrument in the recording; except for one song as it shall be a secret), I was never able to improve the quality of recording due to my living circumstances. But generally and for the early Molodost songs, the creepy and frightening tone of the synth and the guitars were indeed satisfying.

Can you tell a bit about the recording and the writing process, how do you go about these things and do you involve others in it?

Molodost: I just grab my guitar, unplugged, of course, and start composing riffs. Appropriate stuff are then evaluated if they are more suitable as synth lines, bass lines are then added (and I like them loud!) and the beats are composed next. Vocals were always difficult to be recorded due to logistic issues (e.g. equipment availability, inappropriate recording place). Others were never involved and this was a clear decision I’ve taken from the early days as I just can’t adapt my poetic and musical ideas to the ideas of others. This is something I can elaborate later on but my metal musical taste is far from common in my country (and I actually mean among typical metal fans, and not non-metal fans).

How important is nature, or the land, in your music. In what way do you find inspiration in that?

Molodost: Nature is and will always be the glue that attaches all my ideas, whether musical or poetic, together. The appreciation for nature can express itself in either directly describing landscapes or describing a more desired natural human behavior (like how we should really respond to poverty or understand existence). The influencers can range from the US black metal scene and Scandinavia all the way to the harsh Russian winter and Lebanon’s valleys and seas.

 When listening to your EP (repeatedly) I find that there’s a lot more feeling put into it than you’d initially think. I mean the poetry, the expression, it feels to me as a highly personal expression the way you make music. How do you feel about that?

Molodost: Indeed and I just wish if you could understand Arabic! Mentioned earlier, the primary focus of the project was to express some words I’ve been writing since 2006, rather than make music for the sake of music. Feelings are genuine. For instance and in the anti-Zionist song, the lyrics and the music were written at the height of the Israeli invasion of Gaza strip in late 2012 and so you can’t imagine how much rage one could have during that sad period.

You’ve got one song you describe as an anti-Zionist song on the EP. It to me felt like a sad song, lamenting the situation and the losses. You’ve just written another song with a more violent tone. You’re not going to release that as a Molodost song. How do you determine what fits in the project and what not?

Molodost: I was always a fan of chaos in music (I mean, just check the Italian black metal band Nazgûl!). You know that feeling when a song starts with a mesmerizing flute melody or a harp line where you are taken back to your childhood with all the memories and the forests you’ve once played in (yes, that line is from Nest, the Finnish neofolk project) and so, out of nowhere, violent blast beats interrupt everything and start reminding you again that you’re now living in the present where evil is taking over (Ulver’s Bergtatt comes to the mind eh?)? Yet, the outro is just another piano line where hope is reborn from gazing at the stars and the rising sun behind the mountains (Saor had something relatively similar in their latest album, Guardians). Such a musical chaos reflects the kind of poetry I usually write. In other words, the musical aspects of a record don’t really matter for me. I can place a peaceful neoclasical intro, followed by a violent black metal song, a soothing folk metal song and a farewell neofolk outro without feeling ‘out of context’ as they are the themes of the lyrics that unite the musical aspects of the record and not vice versa as often done elsewhere.

Can you explain what your position on the anti-Zionism is as a musician? I’m interested in why you as a Lebanese musician feel that you need to speak out on this topic.

Molodost: That would be very obvious for any person who has a minimal knowledge of the Middle-East and the modern history of Lebanon and Palestine. As a lyricist and a hardcore music fan, I believe that music and poetry are very powerful political tools. You know that cliché of saying that ‘music should unite all/music should be separated from politics’? That’s bullshit for me. A bit of a context out of my personal memory, I have survived 3 ‘Israeli’ invasions and wars; one in 1993, one in 1996 and the last one in 2006. This is not mentioning the continuous abuse of Palestinians and the Gaza-Strip wars. Put differently and as simple as it can be said, ‘Israel’ is a ‘country’ built on terrorism and crimes. However we fight back, it’s just resistance. Whatever you hear differently, it’s just ‘typical blind western media’. I live 15 kms away from the borders of Palestine and I really know what happens nearby. I don’t really live in the west and remotely preach about what’s going on in the Middle-East.

What is it like to play the music you do in Lebanon. I understand it is a rather tolerant country. Does your music get a different sort of attention due to the language choice?

Molodost: Lebanon is actually a relatively tolerant country, unlike, again, what you could hear in the ‘typical blind Western media’. Many concerts of all sorts often take place in Beirut and heavy metal music is among them. Hell, even Dead Can Dance (a highly respected world/neoclassical music act) had a concert here in 2012. The desire to use Arabic poetry instead of English was actually a very conscious choice as the former language is much more expressionist than the latter one.

Do you plan to ever play live with Molodost. If not why not?

Molodost: Not really. As I said, the project is on-hold and so, frankly, I am not a good musician at all (last time I held my guitar was a few months ago!) due to a lack of interest and time (I am currently more of an academic and work person).

What is the metal scene like in Lebanon? And are you involved in it in any way? What bands should people check out?

Molodost: The metal scene in Lebanon is actually a fine one, in terms of having ‘metalheads’ (which is a super silly term but you get the idea anyway). As I mentioned before, heavy metal concerts do regularly take place. Am I involved? Not at all; neither as a fan nor as a musician. I simply don’t like the common liked styles of heavy metal here in Lebanon. Most fans here listen to traditional, thrash, groove, progressive, death, etc… metal music. Folk metal is under appreciated in Lebanon and, if found, it is more towards the Celtic branch and sound and not the Slavic one which I am a huge fan of. As for atmospheric black metal, appreciation is growing, especially with the explosion of interest in bands such as Alcest and all the -gaze movement since the early 2012. Personally speaking, I loved and still like a Lebanese oriental gothic metal band called Shepherd Of Sheol which was a band in the early 00s who once open for Theatre of Tragedy here in Lebanon. As you have also mentioned them, Blaakyum is a very good band in terms of international exposure but I am just not a fan of their sound since I hate thrash metal and its related sound and songwriting.

How are the relations with metal artists from neighboring countries?

Molodost: It’s fine. Not that I have many to say but supporting is nice, especially if relevant. There’s a good folk/pagan black metal band from Tunisia (a country I really love) called Ymyrgar. That’s a great step forward.

You’ve composed some material that you’ve named oriental black metal. What makes the track oriental? What element do you add to the mix so to say.

Molodost: The track was actually labeled as ‘oriental folk metal’ and so this is because of the theme of the desert, the influence during my stay in the UAE and the Arabic-inspired synth sound of that track, and eventually, the lyrics which were, sadly, never sang!

If you had to describe Molodost as a dish, what would it be and why?

Molodost: Molodost is youth and the dish of the soul is its youth! Clear enough? But yeah, I love Lahm-bi-Ajin. Shoukran a lot and Spasiba again for the opportunity!